17-26 April 2017, Thimphu – Lobesa – Tsirang, Bhutan
The Bhutan Organic Seeds Study Trip was organized by Towards Organic Asia (TOA) in order to bridge the multi-stakeholders and support organic seed production. The trip objectives were to:
- Study organic policy and how its implemented in Bhutan,
- Study organic seed production and preservation in Bhutan
- Share and discuss Gross National Happiness (GNH) and wellbeing, and the current progress towards organic food production in Asia and
- Experience Bhutanese culture, spirituality, and traditional agricultural practices.
Bhutan National Organic Programme (NOP): Meeting with Madame Kezang Tshomo,
TOA members from Thailand and Myanmar along with 10 Thai delegates from the Central Group had a meeting with Madame Kezang, from Bhutan’s National Organic Programme (NOP). The discussion was mainly focused on the seeds project and the ways in which organic seed production can be successful in Bhutan.
The NOP’s workplan suggests collaboration between producers and consumers to support the organic extension, and the application of an organic certification standard through participatory guarantee systems (PGS). According to Bhutan’s national policy on seed production, government try to make seeds affordable and available for farmers.
The Thai delegates from the central group presented on the promotion of healthy food and community as well as Bhutanese organic products in Thailand. Madame Kezang also presented information about an organic programme, whose goal is to produce for consumption, and later export surplus produce (carrot, garlic, tea, lemon,etc). She added that the challenges in Bhutan involve consumers and production quantities, thus the NOP needs to address issues with the market. The central group showed an interest in imports such as asparagus and buckwheat, however there are no export subsidies in Thailand.
During an open discussion on seed production, Thai seed experts introduced to the group,the concept of Organic Hybrid Seeds,which are used for quality control and uniformity of the produce. However,the experts informed the group that the hybrid seeds would take time to develop vegetable variety and that seed breeders in Bhutan need a greater capacity. The hybrid and Open Pollination (OP) seeds have different approaches. The OP seeds require less maintenance, while the hybrid seeds need high-intensive care for higher yields. This is important so that farmers have a choice of seed based on the responsibilities each seed type carries and.
TOA members talked about respecting diversity and supporting the open OP, because OP is more practical, and is rooted in local wisdom that farmers can apply and develop at the community level.
Through the experience of the MOA Foundation in Thailand and Metta Development Foundation,we were able to encourage organic rice and vegetable9 production, and the training and technical skills necessary for farmers, so that organic seed production can be a top priority in Asia.
Organic Seeds Production from an Academic Point of View: Meeting with Dr. Sonam Tashi (Dean of Academic Affair) and Dr. Phub Dorji (Director General)
Dr. Sonam Tashi held a presentation about the College of Natural Resources,s (CNR) which is the only agricultural college in Bhutan. The 4 departments of the school include- Natural Resources, Animal Science, Organic Agriculture and Sustainable Development. He also shared his the vision for organic seed production. Bhutan currently has 2.39% of agriculture area (previously 6%) left.
Seed is a heart of natural farming and organic seeds production it could be for domestic consumption and export.
Still, in order for Seed Production to begin selling seeds, they must obtain an organic certification from NOP, registration from National Seeds Centre; hence CNR could support on technique and research for community.
To strengthen natural farming and organic agriculture in Bhutan, CNR is reaching out to, and collaborating with other institutions such as Maejo University and their Agriculture Department as well as the Khon Kaen University in Thailand.